Author's Note:Ok, I know I promised quicker updates and have come to the conclusion that perhaps that was just giving everyone false hope; I massively under-estimated my workload this year, and I've been stuck trying to keep up since the last update. But an update is here (at last) so I hope that, if there's anyone still reading, you'll enjoy it. The next chapter has been started so hopefully that will get the ball rolling a bit and we'll be well on our way to the end of the story. Thanks again to 10Whovian who as always has been a massive help :) And again, my sincerest apologies (if there are any Blackadder fans out there, I'm sure that quote will mean something to you if you pronounce it in an exaggerated German accent) and on with the story!
10. A Dead End?
"Who are you working for?"
John White sat stiffly in the chair, blinking uncomfortably in the light of the interrogation room. Donna stood in between the Doctor and Severus, watching the proceedings, while Blunt sat in the chair opposite White. In another room, an accomplice was being questioned while the driver had been sent to a nearby hospital. Fortunately, his injuries were not serious but they were enough to exempt him from questioning. Stephenson was being looked after in a different room and being filled in on the situation.
"I told you," White said wearily, looking distinctly fed up with the proceedings, "I'm a politician; I work for the party. And you have no right to arrest me – my lawyer will be hearing about this!"
"We have every right to arrest you," Blunt countered, "when you are implicated in a kidnap attempt. Now, I won't ask you again. Who exactly are you working for?"
White sighed. "Harold Hozyain."
From the corner of her eye, Donna saw the Doctor step forwards suddenly. "Say that again."
Without warning, the Doctor burst out laughing. "Oh, that's brilliant, absolutely brilliant! I've always said if he hadn't turned to crime he could have been amazing. Hozyain." He shook his head. "Genius!"
"Why?" Donna asked. "What's so special about a surname?"
"It was pronounced in a thick English accent," the Doctor explained, "but I'm fairly certain – 99.9%, in fact – that his surname means "master" in Russian. Though actually, I can't be sure – something's disrupting the language signal."
"Language signal?" White asked, looking completely bemused. "What is going on? I have a right to know!"
"Do not," Severus hissed, stepping menacingly forward, "pretend to be innocent. We have wasted enough time dancing around the subject. You know very well what is going on and we want you to tell us – it is a simple enough concept," he sneered.
"There isn't anything to tell – ask the others!"
"Oh, but there is," the Doctor said, standing next to Severus. Together, they made quite an intimidating image, Donna noted. "Kidnap doesn't happen without a reason. You want Stephenson, but why? What exactly are you planning?"
When White looked reluctant to talk, Blunt raised an eyebrow. "Things will be much easier for you if you simply tell us."
A charming smile slipped across White's face and he leaned back in his chair, suddenly the very image of relaxation. "Gentlemen – and lady," he said with a smiling nod in Donna's direction, "there is no reason for us to be fighting when we all have so much to do. What do you say to us all simply forgetting the entire matter and going our separate ways, hmm?"
Donna blinked. "Maybe he really doesn't know anything."
The Doctor whipped around to stare at her. "What?"
"He doesn't know anything," Donna said, more certain this time. She could see White smiling and smiled back. "No, he can't, can he? I mean, you said it yourself – he's not who you're looking for, because you didn't recognise him like you said you would."
At a flash, the Doctor was by her side, poking his screwdriver into her face, and she gasped in shock. "Oi? What's that for?"
The Doctor stepped back, confused. "Donna, what's wrong?"
"What do you mean, 'what's wrong'?" She demanded as the Doctor stepped aside. White was still smiling. "He's right, isn't he? He doesn't know anything."
The Doctor stared at her. "Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure, it's obvious!"
He turned around to glare at White. "What have you done to her?"
White smiled languidly. "Me? Why, I have no idea what you're talking about."
Blunt sighed. "I don't think we're going to get anything out of him."
The Doctor turned to stare at Blunt. "White," he said, still staring at Blunt, "tell me what you've done to them. Now."
"I told you. Nothing."
"Somehow I doubt that."
Severus made a small noise of consideration as he peered from Donna to Blunt to White and back again. "He hasn't moved," he concluded eventually. "They are on the other side of the room…no, he can't have done anything."
"What? Severus, not you too! You of all people should know that he doesn't need to move!"
"Movement does help," Severus drawled.
"But, but… magic!" the Doctor exclaimed, beginning to look at a loss as he glanced at each of them in turn. "Wizards, witches, hypnotism – wait!" He whirled back to stare at White, sticking a finger in his face. "That's it, isn't it? You've hypnotised them!"
"Don't be ridiculous!" Donna snapped. "It doesn't exist."
The Doctor's mouth fell open. "Derren Brown? No? Nobody? Oh, come on! Just a minute ago you were all against him!"
"And we were wrong," Severus said, as though it physically pained him to admit to a fault.
"Let them go," the Doctor demanded. White didn't move. "Right, out! Everybody out!"
"I'm not going anywhere, Space Man!"
"Oh, fine, I'll just have to do this, then," the Doctor muttered, yanking them all out of the room one by one, pushing them into the corridor. Once outside, he pointed at each of them in turn. "Stay here, all of you. I won't be a minute."
And with that he ducked back into the interrogation room, shutting the door behind him with a slam. Donna blinked, suddenly feeling as though she was fighting to shake off mental cobwebs.
"What…oh my God! Did I say that White hadn't done anything?"
Severus frowned, looking supremely uneasy. "I think we all did…"
"But…but that's crazy! We can't let the Doctor go back in there, he'll be hypnotised too-" She reached out to open the door but a strong hand on her arm held her back. She turned around to glare at Severus. "Let me go, Plant Man! He's alone in there! He could be-"
"Nothing will happen to him. He was the only one unaffected," Severus explained as though talking to a particularly slow student.
"He's right," Blunt added, "if anyone's qualified to be in there, it's the Doctor. It must only affect humans, whatever it is."
"A non-magical version of the Imperius," Severus murmured, raising an eyebrow. "I had no idea that such a thing existed."
"So what do we do now, then?" Donna asked.
"We do exactly what he said," Severus said bluntly. "Unless you would rather go back in there and become White's puppet?"
Donna sighed and sat on the floor, her back against a wall. "None of this makes any sense."
"We know that someone is trying to take over," Blunt said.
"Yeah, but that's pretty much it. I mean, why does he want to?" Donna pondered. "How is he doing it? This…" she waved a hand at the door, "just isn't natural, and the Doctor doesn't seem to have ever seen it either, but he said he knew the man behind everything."
"White is obviously an accomplice," Severus said. "Perhaps from another planet."
"Yes, but where?"
"I have no idea."
Donna sighed. "And we don't even know why they wanted Stephenson-"
Severus scoffed. "That much is obvious. They knew that we wanted him, so they decided to take him before we could. Possibly even eliminate him as a threat to their power, if they realised how important he was."
"But the Doctor-"
"He wanted to see how much White had been told," Severus explained. "How much he would be willing to admit, how easy he would be to break. So far, he has established that White knows at least partially what is happening, if not nearly everything."
"So now he can start asking more specific questions?"
Severus nodded. "Hopefully he will succeed this time."
Silence fell and tension rose as they waited for what seemed like an eternity for the Doctor to re-emerge from the room. People bustled past, paying them little mind, caught up in their own day. Donna leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes, daydreaming of a nice relaxing bath. Blunt and Severus talked quietly, presumably discussing strategy, but Donna couldn't hear everything that was being said and tuned them out.
An hour later, the door opened, jerking Donna out of her reverie. She clambered to her feet. "So? What happened? What's going on?"
The Doctor closed the door behind him and leaned against it, running a hand through his hair. "He wouldn't actually admit much, but his reactions to my questions speak volumes. He knows about the TARDIS, he knows about Stephenson, and he knows about the plan, but he won't tell me any of it."
"So what do we do?"
"We let him go, Donna."
"Let him go?"
"If we let him go," Severus explained, "we can follow him at a distance. It would be much more useful than keeping him here."
"But we might lose him!"
"We have to take that risk," the Doctor said grimly. "We'll need plain clothes policemen."
"And guns," Severus added pointedly. The Doctor grimaced. "We can't follow him, only to arrive at their headquarters and find ourselves unable to do anything about it. It would be impossible to get your TARDIS back with only our fists to defend ourselves."
"Fine," the Doctor said tersely. "But I won't carry one."
"Speaking of guns," Donna remembered, turning to Severus, "where did you learn to shoot like that?"
"You shot Muggles?" Donna asked, incredulous.
Severus smirked. "No, they taught me. Obviously."
"Don't get snide with me, Plant Man! How was I supposed to know that? With you, 'Muggles' could have meant anything!"
"Right, not really the time to be arguing about Muggles and guns, Donna. Ok, so this is our plan…"
"You got back."
White nodded nervously, closing the office door behind him and trying to resist the urge to fidget as he locked eyes with his employer. Inside his own mind, he snorted. "Employer" indeed. "They couldn't get anything out of me."
"Just your name," White found himself saying, then immediately clamped his mouth shut. Why did he say that? He braced himself as his employer put down his pen and looked at him.
"Yes, sir, but – but that was all I told them."
"You idiot! The Doctor knows my name – I told you, if you get caught, tell them nothing! Not one thing, not one syllable!"
"But…I thought you wanted him to find you?"
Hozyain rolled his eyes. "Yes, but this is too early. I wanted him to come to me on my own terms…" he broke off, narrowing his eyes. "White, were you followed?"
"Briefly, but I lost them when a bus got between me and their car."
Hozyain stood up. "Are you sure?"
White swallowed and took a step back. "Yes, perfectly. I-"
"Then hope for your sake that you're right," Hozyain advised. "I don't want this plan to fail. Not again."
The Doctor scrambled out of the car and sprang to his feet, looking eerily like a meerkat as he struggled to search the crowd for White. "Why does this always happen?" he ranted as Severus and Donna joined him on the pavement, Blunt remaining in the car. "Why do buses always arrive when you don't want them to?"
"Probably because they're never there when you want them," Donna sniffed.
"He will not have gone far," Severus pointed out. "To disappear as he did means that he knows he was being followed. He is either hiding in a different building in an attempt to lose us or he has reached headquarters and does not believe that we can find them."
"Brilliant," Donna said sarcastically. "Now all we have to do is find him in a crowded city. Again."
Severus rolled his eyes at her. "When I was in the other universe we had headquarters which were protected by spells. Perhaps technology can achieve the same thing."
The Doctor, who had been scanning the crowd for White, snapped his eyes back to Severus and grinned widely. "And they say wizards are ignorant."
Severus scowled, clearly unsure whether he was supposed to be insulted.
The Doctor whipped out his sonic screwdriver and started pointing it across the street. Blunt, who had been watching from the car, spoke up. "I just got a call – I need to be at the scene of a bank robbery down town."
"Do you think it's related?" Donna asked.
Blunt started to shrug then stopped, catching himself, and simply raised his eyebrows instead. "Possibly, but it's hard to say before an investigation has been conducted. Will you be able to find your way back to the station?"
Severus nodded. "We have ways of calling you if we need assistance."
Taking that as permission to leave, Blunt turned the engine back on and put on his lights and siren, pulling out into the busy road and quickly disappearing. The Doctor took advantage of this confusion to run quickly across the road, Severus and Donna following once they realised he'd gone.
Donna panted to a halt at the end of an alleyway and watched as the Doctor started banging his sonic screwdriver.
"It's definitely around here somewhere, but there's too much interference…" he banged it again.
"Don't you ever break things?" Donna asked. "I mean, I always wondered; whenever I watch you trying to work your technology, you're always smashing it with your hand. Doesn't that break it? Or is it some super-resistant-mysterious-time-lord-stuff?"
The Doctor looked affronted. "I don't try to work my technology!" He undermined himself by banging the screwdriver again and putting it to his ear, listening for any changes.
"Right, because what you're doing now is how it's supposed to work. You can't even drive the TARDIS without crashing into the wrong decade!"
"That's a bit of an over-exaggeration," the Doctor retorted, "coming from the woman who can't change a light bulb."
"I can change light bulbs, but yours are just weird! What kind of a light bulb has hands and tries to stay in the fitting?"
"I've got it!" The Doctor announced, just as Severus opened his mouth to stop the argument. "It's faint, but it's there. Now, I just need to find a way in…" He started knocking on one of the walls of the alleyway.
"What are you doing?" Donna asked. "It's brick, it's not going to be hollow!"
"You'd be surprised," the Doctor murmured before stepping back, looking perplexed. "Ok, so that's not how we get in. How about…" he started rummaging around in some nearby bins, throwing rubbish onto the floor and scanning each object individually, before holding up what looked like an empty egg carton," …this?"
He pressed down on one of the sections. When it failed to do anything, he frowned and pressed another one.
"Maybe you need the eggs?" Donna suggested.
"No, it's definitely one of these… It's an Evident Gateway Generator, it has to be one of these…the egg has nothing to do with it. Well, besides the name, of course."
"EGG?" Severus asked, a disbelieving look on his face.
"I think the inventor was a bit eccentric. Ah, there we go." The bricks gradually changed colour to reveal a bright red metal door. "See? Evident gateway."
"But…shouldn't you have felt metal when you were over there before?" Donna asked.
"As a genuine rule these EGGs come equipped with perception filters. You've seen my psychic paper, it's the same idea, only on a larger scale. I couldn't see it because I had no idea what was there. It's actually very clever."
"Perhaps we should go in?" Severus asked sarcastically. "Unless you two would rather discuss EGGs as the world is being-"
"Scrambled," Donna interrupted before she could stop herself. Both men turned to stare at her. "The world being scrambled…destroyed…"
"Yes," the Doctor said dubiously, still staring at Donna, the corners of his mouth twitching in repressed laughter, "let's just go in."